It is important that you dress appropriately for safety, performance, and health, especially during the colder and wetter weather in February, March, and early April.
The best clothing for rowing is soft, stretchy, breathable, and fairly form fitting. Loose shorts can get caught in the slides under the moving seats, so avoid basketball style shorts or warm-ups. Loose tops can get caught in the oar handles, so avoid bulky jackets or sweatshirts. In general, you should dress as though you are going running in the elements or Nordic skiing.
Synthetic fabrics such as Polypro, Cool Max, Under Armor, and similar fabrics are best because they keep you relatively warm even when wet, and they dry quickly. You will get wet from perspiration, rain, and splash. The key is that they have synthetic clothing that will keep you warm even when wet.
Layering is important for keeping warm and maintaining the right temperature. Your needs will change during a practice depending on exertion and changing conditions. Having the appropriate layers enables you to regulate your insulation and protection. Sometimes a rower may mix 2 out of 3 layers, depending on conditions.
Base Layer – Form-fitting and intended to wick moisture away from the skin. A long-sleeve Under Armor or similar brand is ideal. These garments are thin and similar to base layer garments worn when skiing. Multiple base layers can be worn for added warmth. On colder days, rowers may want to wear tights for leg warmth.
Insulation Layer – A synthetic fleece garment worn on colder days where extra insulation is needed. Thicker than the base layer, but not bulky. Polartec or Polarfleece clothing products fall within this category. Some insulation layer fabrics also have wind protection built in.
Wind Block Clothing – Having a wind block that breathes helps retain warmth while not getting too hot. Base and insulation layers are generally not designed to block the wind. A Gore-Tex Jacket (many members of the team have already purchased this) is designed for this purpose while also being form fitting so that it does not interfere with the oars, and has ventilation panels on the sides for breathing. Other wind blocking clothing can be worn, but ensure that it breathes and is form fitting.
Waterproof Clothing – Waterproof clothing is not required for rowing. If you do purchase waterproof clothing, ensure that it is highly breathable. Really waterproof clothing tends not to breathe as well, increasing body heat and sweating, and then holding the perspiration within the clothing instead of letting it evaporate. This can result in you getting too hot, taking off the waterproof clothing, and then getting really chilled.
All rowers will wear the W-L unisuit during their race. Practice unisuits may also be purchased.
Head to Toe
Hats – You can lose a lot of body heat through your head. On cold days, it is REQUIRED that your rower wears a stocking hat to keep warm.
Core – Make sure to dress in layers as described above. Check the forecast; if the forecast is calling for rain, pack extra layers your rower can change into after they get off the water.
Hands – Hands can get cold while rowing. However, rowers do not wear gloves. The reason for this is that rowing requires a tactile feel of the handle. You can bring gloves onto the water to wear when they are not actually rowing, or you can put your hands under their armpits to keep them warm.
Legs – Please do not wear basketball shorts on the water! These shorts will get caught in the tracks of the seat and disrupt practice. On cold days, rowers can wear long tights. On a warmer day, short tights are needed.
Socks – Socks should be synthetic or wool to help ensure that feet stay warm while wet. Rowers should always have second pair on land.
Shoes – Rowers should always wear athletic shoes. Non-athletic shoes are not acceptable for the physical activities including in practice such as running, erg workouts, stairs, and weightlifting.
What Not to Wear
No Cotton – You should avoid cotton. Cotton does not keep you warm when it gets wet; instead, it makes you colder. Cotton should not be used as the base layer, because it does not wick moisture away from the skin.
No Down – Down should never be worn on the water. When down gets wet, it will clump, get very heavy, and will not keep your rower warm.
Dry Clothes on Land – On rainy days, all W-L rowers should have dry clothes to change into when they get back on land.
Label Your Clothing – Please label all of your rower’s clothing. This will make it clear who it belongs to, and reduce the chance that you will lose your clothing at the boathouse or regattas. Every year the coaches fill their trunks with unidentified articles of clothing which end up with Goodwill.
Duffle Bag – It’s a good idea for your rower to have a duffle bag that they can bring to practice and store their clothing in. If you can find one with a waterproof pouch, that will keep dry and wet clothes separate on the cold and rainy days.